Last night when the Cubs pinch-hit for Jake Arrieta in the top of the 8th with a 2-1 lead, folks were already nervous. Arrieta was throwing another gem and bad memories of the unreliable pen from May resurfaced.

Turns out, those who didn’t want Joe Maddon to hand the ball over to the pen and Pedro Strop were proven correct in this instance. Strop entered in the bottom of the 8th, surrendered a home run to someone named Greg Garcia (Now, I’m familiar with most guys in the league but I literally asked out loud, “who?” when he stepped up). Strop then hit Kolten Wong and, after surrendering a well hit fly out by Matt Carpenter, walked Jhonny Peralta before getting pulled.

Safe to say, it wasn’t Strop’s best evening. One of his worst, in fact.

But, before you start crush Strop (Looking at you, Costas) or getting ready to relegate him to mop-up duty, let it be noted that it was just his first Blown Save of the season – a number that surprised me, actually. Plus, it was only the seventh outing he’s allowed a run this season and first time in a month not named May. Seven outings allowing runs is not ideal, but when you consider that Strop is in the top 5 in appearances for all of baseball, I think we can give him a pass.

Also, three of those aforementioned seven outings where Strop’s allowed a run came against St. Louis. We can’t make any big assumptions here, but would it be crazy to think they see him or scout him better than other teams? Or are they just that good? I have no idea.

The concerning part of Strop’s performances have been the walks. His walk rate is up from last year, his strike out rate is down (slightly, but still down). His left on base percentage is lower than it was last year, although still higher than in 2013 when his performance was rough enough that the Orioles flat out gave up on him and traded him to Chicago.

But here’s the thing, I still don’t mind putting Strop into the 8th inning in a close game when he would be facing the 9-1-2 batters. That way, you can save Hector Rondon or Jason Motte for the 9th while facing the heart of the order. Pedro Strop has proven before that he has the ability to be a dominating reliever and over the course of this month has shown more outings falling on that side of the spectrum. He has the ability to be a great set up man and the only way to get him to realize that potential is to give him opportunities when he has earned it. Over the month of June, he had earned it.

Last night, unfortunately, it didn’t play out the way Strop, Maddon and the Cubs wanted it to. Relievers have bad nights; it just happens. But for now, leave Stropy alone. And look for Maddon to continue giving him opportunities to build himself back up to being the set up man we all know he could be.

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